On May, 11 1950, in McMinnville, Oregon, Mrs. Trent was in her backyard feeding their rabbits when she noticed a strange object in the overcast sky. In a panic, she ran into the house and called to her husband who was in the kitchen grabbing a bite to eat. After hearing his wife excitedly describe the object, he quickly retrieved the family’s camera and rushed out of the house to photograph the object. They later described the object as a flat metallic disk, “brightly metallic, silver or aluminum colored, with a touch of bronze”. They estimated that the UFO had a width of 20 to 30 feet. The object moved towards them and was tilted at a slight angle. The Trent’s indicated that it did not rotate but rather ‘glided’ through the air. The object made no noise and emitted no smoke and seemed to just hover there silently in the air.
Mr. Trent shot one photograph, wound the film, moved around a little to follow the right-to-left motion of the object, and shot the second photograph. After he shot the second photograph, the object tilted on its side (exposing its underside to Mr. Trent), and accelerated quickly, emitting a gust of wind, as it accelerated out of site. While Mr. Trent was taking the pictures, Mrs. Trent ran into the house to call her mother-in-law on the telephone. When she got not answer, she stepped back outside just in time to see the UFO “dimly vanishing towards the East”. For several days afterwards, Mr. Trent continued to use the roll of film to take other pictures and had the film developed a couple of weeks later when he completed shooting the entire roll.
Neither witness sought publicity after the incident and showed the photos to friends only. A reporter for the McMinnville Telephone Register, Bill Powell, heard about the photos from two local bankers and immediately began investigating the incident. He learned that both witnesses had deduced that the objects were some sort of military appliances and hence, were afraid to say much about them for fear of getting in trouble. They were also afraid of receiving too much publicity from the press. Digging further, the reporter searched and eventually found the negatives on the floor in the garage where the Trent’s children had been playing with them. He contacted the local firm that developed the photographs and also enlisted some “expert photographers” to study the negatives. Based on these authorities, he was satisfied that the photographs were authentic and the negatives had not been tampered with in any way. The story broke on June, 09, 1950 in the local paper. By the end of the week, the story had moved all around the country, appearing in newspapers from New York to Las Angeles.
The photo negatives eventually made their way to Life magazine in New York where, mysteriously, the negatives were “temporarily misplaced”. Life magazine promised to return the photos to the Trent’s when they were found. Many years later the negatives were located in possession of the United Press International (UPI) and finally made their way back to the rightful owners.
The resulting photographs have proved to be one of the most controversial UFO evidence to date. The photos taken show a clearly defined metallic, saucer shaped object hovering 50 feet off the ground above some trees and a garage. The trees, houses, and telephone poles located in the background offer excellent gauges as to the size and location of the object.
The veracity of the pictures has been argued by many as has the actual witness testimony which unfortunately seems to have changed on several occasions. To begin with, the time of the incident has come into question by many. The witnesses indicated the incident took place around 7:45PM on 05/11/1950. Some who have analyzed the photos have argued that the shadows present from a pole, garage, and house gables seem to suggest that the photographs were taken in the morning, not the evening as the witnesses suggest since the shadows show the sunlight arriving from the East.
Furthermore, records indicate that the weather on that day was cloudy and overcast. The photos appear to have been taken on a sunnier day.
Supporters argue that there would be no reason for the Trent’s to fake the photographs and then lie about the time and especially the weather conditions (since the weather conditions could be easily exposed as a lie with the photographs as evidence). Also, they point out that their analysis of the photo negatives shows the sky itself is brighter on the west side which would be expected if the photo was indeed taken in the evening. They also argue that the Trent’s were farmers and rather uneducated and hence would not possess the skills needed to doctor the photographs.
The witness testimony has varied too. In most accounts, Mrs. Trent indicates that her husband was in the house when she first sighted the object and she ran into the kitchen to retrieve him. In one account (The Telephone Register, 06/08/1950) Mrs. Trent indicated that both her and Mr. Trent were both in the backyard and spotted the object at the same time. To their credit, interviews were again taken in 1967 and their testimonies did not vary considerably, even though 17 years had passed since the incident took place.
Others question the movements of Mr. Trent as he took the pictures. The witness consistently indicated that the object moved to the left and he subsequently moved to the right to take the second shot. Detractors argue that his movement to the right was not ‘logical’. The photos do indeed show his claimed movement to be true and as for the reason for his moving to the right as the craft moved to the left – this seems logical as the object moving to the left threatened to be hidden by the garage so the witness naturally would have moved back a little to get a clearer shot.
As for the veracity of the witnesses, many local residents offered to sign affidavits vouching for the reputation of the witnesses. One indication of their honesty was a incident on the nationally televised “We the People” appearance they made in New York. After agreeing to appear on the show, producers prodded the Trent’s to make statements that the Trent’s regarded as inaccurate. Nevertheless, both witnesses stuck to their original story and refused to be influenced by the New York producers.
Was it a Hoax?
So if the photos are a fake, how could the incident be hoaxed? The photos don’t indicate any rotation so most rule out that the object was a toy or Frisbee tossed into the air. There is the possibility that the object was suspended by wires hanging from the telephone line (which can be seen at the top of the photograph). The telephone line wires run from left to right in the photo with the object appearing slightly below them. The explanation is strengthened by the fact that the object appears under roughly the same point in both pictures (taken from different angles since Mr. Trent moved to his right to take the second photo). On the other hand, others have examined the photos and determined that there is about a 10% difference in the location of the object between the two photos.
As for the camera itself – the camera was already loaded with film – old film from about 6 months earlier that had 3 or 4 shots already taken on it and was later used to take more pictures. This offered valuable verification of the photographs since they were taken right in the middle of a normal roll of film.
Hoax or the best documentation to date of a actual UFO incident? Possibly with better or different photo analysis techniques the riddle can be solved. Maybe new testimony will be discovered that will shed more light on the mystery. Until then, it’ll have to remain a curious anomaly.